About this release

This release by Public Health Scotland (PHS) provides the Scottish Public Health Observatory (ScotPHO) quarterly update on a number of topic areas. Of these topics, only the drug use pages contain updated data.

Main points


Treatment for dug misuse

  • A decreasing trend in the dispensing of Opioid Substitution Therapy (OST) drugs (including methadone) has been evident since 2010/11. From 2010/11 to 2019/20, the number of OST items dispensed in Scotland decreased by 13%.
  • The minimum number of individuals in Scotland prescribed methadone was 24,721 in 2019/20.

Social Harm: Drug Related Criminal Proceedings

  • In 2018/19, there were 4,997 people convicted in cases where a drugs charge was the main offence. Of these convictions, 56% were for class A drugs (e.g. cocaine, ecstasy, heroin), 34% for class B drugs (e.g. amphetamines, cannabis) and five per cent for class C drugs (e.g. benzodiazepines, anabolic steroids). For the remaining six per cent of convictions the drug type was unknown.


The Scottish Public Health Observatory (external website) collaboration is led by PHS and includes the Glasgow Centre for Population Health, National Records of Scotland, the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit and the Scottish Learning Disabilities Observatory.

The aim of the collaboration is to make public health information more accessible, to promote the reduction in inequalities and to inform health improvement in Scotland.

Issues associated with recording of the Community Health Index (CHI) number for methadone prescriptions means it is not possible to provide a robust count of the number of individuals prescribed methadone as an OST in Scotland. While the national CHI capture for methadone has increased from 78.1% in 2011/12 to 80% in 2019/20, it remains below the agreed threshold of reliability (individual analysis is usually only reported when CHI completeness is above 85-90%). As a result of this issue, methadone patient estimates are described as a ‘minimum number’ of individuals prescribed methadone hydrochloride 1mg/ml solution.

Further information

All the topic areas updated will be available on the ScotPHO website (external website).

Open data for this publication is available from the Scottish Health and Social Care open data portal (external website).

The next release of this publication will be 22 December 2020.


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Older versions of this publication

Versions of this publication released before 16 March 2020 may be found on the Data and Intelligence, Health Protection Scotland or Improving Health websites.

Last updated: 14 July 2021
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